Pesto Sauce Recipe Makeover: 4 Variations on the Classic Basil Sauce

By Angela Tague in Healthy Feeling

What's your favorite pasta sauce style? Red, white, or green? Personally, I've never met a plate of pasta I didn't love, but when it comes to making healthier choices, I skip the heavy cream sauces and go green—pesto green, that is!

If you've never made a homemade pesto sauce recipe, it's generally a flavorful blend of fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, a hard cheese like Parmesan, and garlic. As a bonus, the basil, an herb in the mint family, may offer some anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, according to The Washington Post.

Like many Italian sauces, it's fun to mix them up a bit and create a custom sauce that fits your palate perfectly. I like things a little spicy, so the addition of red pepper flakes is a must. If you're feeding kids, go easy on the garlic so the sauce isn't too strong.

pesto ingredients

Are you ready to go beyond the jar and make your own pesto sauce? Try one of these variations to warm up a cool evening.

Easy Vegan Pesto Sauce

If you don't do dairy or prefer to follow a vegan diet, this recipe from Dana at The Minimalist Baker is one to try. In lieu of Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, or another hard cheese, she subs in nutritional yeast. The B12-rich flakes have a salty, cheese-like flavor that's a perfect addition to the usual blend of pesto ingredients.

Pea Pesto (No Basil!)

Do you love the idea of trying a green sauce, but aren't wild about basil? Hello, peas! You can make a sweet, rich sauce from classic, shelled peas. Whether they're straight from the garden or the freezer, this sauce featuring fresh lemon juice and garlic from Epicurious is one to try!

Fresh Herb Pesto Recipe

I have a confession: The first time I tried pesto sauce, I didn't love it. The basil flavor was too strong. But since then, I've tried so many other recipes and discovered I love pesto that's made with a blend of herbs, like this recipe from Southern Living. By weaving together flavorful basil, parsley, and chives, this recipe tones down the basil flavor for a bold take on classic pesto.

Fettuccine with Spinach Pesto

This pesto sauce recipe swaps out leafy basil for frozen spinach. The variation is a time saver on busy weeknights or when you need to whip up a meal using only pantry and freezer items. It's delicious and simple!

What have you been cooking? Share a photo on Instagram and use the hashtag #GoodMatters! We'd love to see what's on your plate!

Image sources: Pexels | Pexels

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Why It’s Good

Pesto is easy and fun to make, but it doesn't have to be the same everytime. Try a pesto sauce recipe that goes beyond the usual ingredients.